Good morning. Welcome to the first of five shorter working weeks in April and May.
April bill rises
From 1 April a raft of costs has increased for consumers and businesses which will leave a family with a £50,000 income £700 a year worse off. Television, broadband and mobile contracts could go up by as much as 17% as they are linked to inflation. The £400 energy bill discount from the government ends this month and most local authorities will increase council tax by 5%. The cost of NHS prescriptions, stamps and water bills will also rise. For businesses with profits over £250,000, corporation tax has increased from 19% to 25%. On the flip side, most benefits including universal credit and pensions will rise in line with inflation. The national minimum wage, for those over 23, will rise by nearly 10% to £10.42, the biggest annual cash hike in the wage's 24-year history.
House prices drop
UK house prices fell at the sharpest annual pace since 2009 after surging interest rates increased the cost of borrowing. That’s according to the latest Nationwide figures, which revealed that prices fell by 3.1% in March compared to last year. Prices have now declined for seven months in a row, and are 4.6% below their August peak of around £275,000, although they are 19% higher than before the pandemic. Rising interest rates since last September’s ill-fated mini-budget have reduced housing affordability. At the start of 2022, the average five-year fixed-rate mortgage had an interest rate of less than 2%, today it’s over 4%. Economists expect house prices to fall further, as household finances come under pressure from rising bills and higher borrowing costs.
Probe into Swiss banking merger
Following the dramatic takeover of Credit Suisse by UBS last month, Swiss prosecutors are investigating government officials, regulators and executives over any criminal offences. The merger of Switzerland’s two biggest banks was orchestrated by the government after concerns rose about Credit Suisse's financial health. The deal has upset taxpayers and shareholders of both banks, who weren’t able vote on the terms. UBS bought its rival for $3.2bn, much less than the $8bn it was valued at a few days earlier. Critics of the takeover say it has also damaged Switzerland's global reputation as a financial centre.
Ocado wins ‘robot wars’
The grocery delivery firm said it had “comprehensively” won a UK ruling against rival AutoStore in its long-running global dispute over patent infringements. The legal battle started in 2020 and centres on the robot-operated warehouse technology that Ocado uses and sells to other retailers. The outcome of the case could have impacted the company's expansion into the US online grocery market. Autostore complained that the British company infringed its patents but now a London judge has ruled in Ocado’s favour. Lawsuits had also been filed in Germany and the US, and these will continue, but a member of the Ocado legal team said the risk of infringement was now with Autostore.
Oily surprise: Saudi Arabia and Gulf nations have announced an unexpected cut to their oil production in a move they said would support market stability.
Lights out: Three energy suppliers have lost a High Court challenge over the government's handling of the sale of rival Bulb.
Walking out: Amazon workers at a Coventry warehouse are to hold six more days of strikes in April in a dispute over pay.
Manc tax: Tourists to Manchester city centre will have to pay a new ‘tax’ to fund a business improvement district group.
Staying blue: Twitter has started removing verification badges from accounts which already had a blue tick, after announcing they would be part of a paid subscription from 1 April.
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Number Of The Day
How much on average women are paid for every £1 a man earns, according to Sky News analysis.